Iran: President's Decertification Of The JCPOA And Its Implications

October 16, 2017 – On October 13, 2017, President Trump announced that he will not certify the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or "JCPOA"). While his decision has no immediate consequences, it creates a climate of uncertainty.

Shifting Responsibility to Congress

The obligation to certify every 90 days that the Iranians are in compliance with the JCPOA and that the deal remains in the vital national security interests of the United States is not a requirement of the JCPOA.  Rather, it is a requirement under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act ("INARA") passed by Congress in 2015.  The decision to decertify triggers a 60 day fast-track process under which Congress can (but is not required to) re-impose sanctions on Iran. In his statement, however, the President indicated he would seek to work with Congress and U.S. allies to address perceived flaws in the JCPOA, and the Administration itself is not expected to seek a re-imposition of sanctions at this stage.  The President identified flaws in the JCPOA that he seeks to address, including the JCPOA's failure to address Iran's ongoing efforts to develop ballistic missiles, Iran's support of terrorism, and Iran's failure to comply with the JCPOA's international inspection provisions.  However, unless and until the Congress re-imposes sanctions, the JCPOA remains intact.

In response to the President's announcement, instead of seeking an immediate re-imposition of sanctions under INARA, Senators Tom Cotton and Bob Corker announced plans to introduce legislation that would trigger an automatic re-imposition of sanctions only under certain conditions, including if Iran reaches the point where it has reached a less than one-year "breakout" period for developing a nuclear weapon.  It is not yet clear who would determine whether any of the conditions have occurred, nor what specific sanctions would be re-imposed under the legislation. Notably, the President – through his executive power, as well as the exercise of waiver authorities under existing sanctions legislation – already has the ability to re-impose sanctions on Iran at any time, subject to whatever conditions he chooses.  Indeed, in his statement, President Trump said that if Congress and the allies fail to find a solution to what he identified as the JCPOA's shortcomings, then he would unilaterally terminate U.S. participation in the deal.

OFAC Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Immediately following the President's announcement, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") announced the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ("IRGC") under Executive Order 13224, which targets global terrorists and their supporters. The move, which was mandated in any event by the Iran-Russia sanctions legislation passed in August, has few additional practical consequences, as the IRGC was already designated by OFAC as a "Specially Designated National" under three other authorities. U.S. persons remain prohibited from transacting or dealing with the IRGC and entities that it owns 50% or more, and the IRGC and its designated agents or affiliates remain subject to certain secondary sanctions that have not been waived as part of the JCPOA.

Possible Consequences of Decertification

The decertification, shifting of responsibility to Congress, and OFAC's designation of the IRGC have no immediate practical impacts on U.S. and European companies doing business in Iran, and the legal landscape remains, for now, unchanged. However, it is not clear how the President's decision to decertify might impact sanctions implementation, an area in which OFAC retains considerable discretion.  For instance:

  • The Administration's policy shift may impact OFAC's decision to process or grant requests pursuant to its favorable licensing policy for Iran's civil aviation sector;
  • Similarly, Treasury's press release announcing the IRGC designation cautioned the private sector that those who do business with "IRGC-controlled companies" do so at great risk. That might suggest a more aggressive use of secondary sanctions authorities that continue to apply to the IRGC;
  • Lastly, while OFAC's General License H continues to authorize U.S. owned and controlled entities abroad to engage in most business with Iran, its fate – like that of the JCPOA itself – is tenuous, and companies operating in Iran pursuant to that authority should have exit strategies in place.

Possibility for Further Presidential Action

As a separate matter from the President's decision to decertify Iran's compliance pursuant to the INARA legislation, the President also has authority to revoke or not to reissue his waivers of various Iran sanctions legislation.  (Specified sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012, the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.) These waivers are the basis for the suspension of the U.S. secondary sanctions – a critical component of the JCPOA.  These waivers need to be renewed every few months (different pieces of legislation require different waiver periods), and the White House has continuously issued the waivers since the JCPOA.  The next waiver is due on January 12, 2018.  Revocation of the waivers at any time, or failure to re-issue them when they are due for renewal, would lead to immediate snap-back of secondary sanctions against Iran.  As discussed above, if the President were to determine that Congress does not satisfactorily address his concerns with the JCPOA, he could re-impose sanctions through the exercise of his waiver authority.

International Reaction

The other signatories to the JCPOA, including European countries, Russia and China, have indicated that regardless of what the United States does, they will not walk away from the JCPOA.  Thus, while U.S. companies and their subsidiaries are facing business uncertainty, it appears that the rest of the world may continue the path toward more engagement with Iran.


Because of the many uncertainties about how events will unfold, the October 13 actions are unlikely to be the last word.  Interested parties should expect uncertainty to continue and be prepared for yet further developments concerning Iran sanctions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions